WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS & FEMINIST THEORIES: A SUMMARY

Summary

Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique generalized about women’s experiences of domestic life in mid-twentieth century America, failing to consider ways that Black, poor, Indigenous, and immigrant women had different experiences of the private sphere. This is just one example of ways that liberal feminist perspectives espoused by primarily white, middle-class women have erased racialized and poor women’s experiences. As bell hooks explains, Friedan did not consider the ways that white women’s attempts to achieve equality with white men depended upon the maintenance of race and class power structures. hooks’s chapter “Feminist Politics: Where We Stand” advocates for feminist politics that challenge multiple systems of oppression based on gender, race, class, and colonialism. An analysis of gender oppression and patriarchy alone cannot produce a robust, inclusive, or effective feminist politics.

Examples from the Canadian women’s movement from the 1960s-1980s demonstrate that there are real divisions among women based on nation, race, language, class, and colonialism. Whereas white, English-speaking women focused on campaigning for the inclusion of a sexual equality provision in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for example, Indigenous women mobilized to challenge the Indian Act‘s patriarchal rules about marriage and identity. Indigenous feminists challenge colonialism and patriarchy as mutually-reinforcing systems of oppression.

This module also introduced you to feminist, queer, and trans theories about sex and gender. Since Simone de Beauvoir articulated the sex/gender distinction in her 1949 book, The Second Sex, feminist, queer, and trans scholars have produced complex theories about the relationship between bodies, power, and identity. Feminist, queer, and trans scholars have challenged gender binaries — or gender dualism as Dr. Michelle Meagher explains here in wgs101. Trans scholars, including Leslie Feinberg, explain that sex — defined as chromosomes, hormones, and genitals — does not determine one’s identity or experience. As Feinberg writes, “sex and gender are much more complex than a delivery room doctor’s glance a genitals can determine” (195). In fact, research in the fields of biology and medicine confirm that biological sex can be quite difficult to define due to natural variations in hormones, chromosomes, and genitals. How might feminism embrace the idea of trans liberation? This is a question to reflect upon throughout the course. For now, take the opportunity to assess your comprehension of lessons, lectures, assigned resources, and big ideas from this module.

COMMUNITY SERVICE LEARNING: Have you considered doing a CSL placement for this course? You can get credit for working for community organizations contributing to gender equality and social justice, making connections to course content along the way. You will find all of the information about CSL on eClass.

Test Yourself

Discussion Questions

This week you will practice using quotations effectively. You will choose a quotation from one of the readings and explain, in your own words, what it means, and why it is meaningful or memorable.

PLAN YOUR OWN GENDER REVEAL PARTY
This image is decorative. A group of friends of varying genders take photos at a party.
Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection. Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection. Made available to media outlets via Creative Commons. See guidelines here: broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

Plan your own gender reveal party. How would you reveal your gender to your family and friends? How would you convey complex information about your identity through a gender reveal party? How might your party engage in what Judith Butler calls “gender trouble” by disrupting sex/gender binaries? Reflect on the phenomenon of gender reveal parties and the process of distilling your gendered self into one big “reveal”. What feels inadequate or limiting about that process? What is liberating? Can feminists, queer, and trans folks ‘take back’ gender reveal parties as a form of resistance to gender binaries?

REMEMBER! You must define the big idea for the module and reference assigned resources in your response. Be sure to include specific examples from at least two assigned resources. See full details for the assignment on the “Big Idea Challenge” page here. You must complete one Big Idea Challenge by 4 February, and one by 4 March.

Your discussion post for Module 2 is due on eClass on 25 January. Remember to use eClass to ask questions, stay up-to-date on announcements, and participate in the discussion boards.

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